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Moss, Dorothy

Former Curator of Painting and Sculpture


Background And Education

Education And Training

Professional Biography

  • Dorothy Moss is curator of painting and sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery and coordinating curator of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. Moss also directs the National Portrait Gallery’s triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. As curator of the Portrait Gallery’s first performance art series, “IDENTIFY: Performance Art as Portraiture,” she has commissioned new performances by multiple artists, including María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Sandy Huckleberry, J. J. McCracken, James Luna, Martha McDonald, Jeffrey Gibson, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Sheldon Scott, and WILMER WILSON IV. She serves as one of the curators of the ongoing “Portraiture Now” series and co-curated “The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now” (2017), which was part of that series. Moss’s most recent exhibitions include “One Life: Sylvia Plath” (2017), which focused on Plath’s visual identities, and “The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers” (2017). The latter examined portrayals of American workers in the United States from the eighteenth century to the present and was accompanied by a scholarly catalogue (Smithsonian Books). Her forthcoming exhibition “Hung Liu: Portraits of the Promised Lands, 1968–2020” will open at the National Portrait Gallery in 2021.

    Prior to joining the National Portrait Gallery, Moss served as assistant curator of American art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She also worked as a researcher and writer for the installation of the Luce Foundation Center for American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. From 2008 to 2013, Moss taught the following seminars in American studies for the Smith College / Smithsonian program: “The Copy in the Museum: Museums and New Technology, c. 1900–Present” and “Facing, Replicating, and Defacing the Self: Locating Identity in American Portraiture, c. 1800–Present.”  She has contributed to numerous exhibition catalogues, and her commentaries and articles have appeared in such publications as the Burlington Magazine, American Art, click!: photography changes everything, and Gastronomica. Her essay “Performing and Portraying the Copy, c. 1900” is included in Replication in the Long Nineteenth Century: Re-makings and Reproductions (Edinburgh University Press, 2018). In February 2020, Moss’s essay on Amy Sherald’s portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama will be published in The Obama Portraits (Princeton University Press / National Portrait Gallery).

    After graduating from Smith College, Moss earned an MA in art history from Williams College, and a PhD in art history from the University of Delaware. Her dissertation, “Translations, Appropriations, and Copies of Paintings at the Dawn of Mass Culture in the United States, c. 1900” (2012), examined the shifting critical status of copies of paintings in the United States from 1870 to 1905.



Awards And Honors


Selected Publications

  • Article

  • Blog Posting

  • Book

    • Moss, Dorothy, Tinari, Philip, Lippard, Lucy, Lim, Nancy, Partridge, Elizabeth, Chagoya, Enrique, Chicago, Judy, Chin, Mel, Hong, Yu, Mull, Martin, Sherald, Amy, Syjuco, Stephanie, Thomas, Lava, Weems, Carrie Mae, and Xiaodong, Liu. 2021. Hung Liu, Portraits of Promised Lands [Exhibition catalog] Yale University Press published in association with the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. 2021
    • Caragol-Barreto, Taína Beatriz, Moss, Dorothy, Powell, Richard J., and Sajet, Kim. 2020. The Obama Portraits. Washington, DC;Princeton, New Jersey: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution;Princeton University Press, Incorporated. 2020
    • Eye to I: Self-Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery..  Ed. Fortune, Brandon.  2019
    • Moss, Dorothy and Ward, David C. 2017. The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. 2017
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2016. Outwin Boochever Portait Competition Catalogue. Washington, DC: National Portrait Gallery. 2016
    • Pen and Ink: Artists' Handwritten Letters from the Smithsonin's Archives of American Art.  Ed. Savig, Mary.  2016
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2013. Outwin Boochever Portrait Competiion Catalogue. Washington, DC: National Portrait Gallery. 2013
    • Moss, Dorothy, Kagan, Neil, and Delaney, Michelle. 2013. Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection, Meacham, Jon, editor. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books. 2013
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2012. Photography Changes Everything, Heiferman, Marvin, editor. New York: Aperture. 2012
  • Chapter

    • Moss, Dorothy. 2019. "Portraiture at an Intersection in History: The Fifth Triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition." In The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today: Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Sajet, Kim, Moss, Dorothy, and Caragol-Barreto, Taína Beatriz, editors. Washington, DC: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. 2019
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2018. "Portraying and Performing the Copy." In Replication in the Long Nineteenth Century: Re-makings and Reproductions.. Codell, Julie and Hughes, Linda, editors. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 2018
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2017. "Closed-eyed Specimens: Strangers on the Beach with Caitlin Teal Price." In Caitlin Teal Price: Stranger Lives. New York: Capricious Publishing. 2017
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2017. "The Worker in the Art Museum." In The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers. Ward, David C., Moss, Dorothy, and Fagg, John, editors. 49–61. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books. 2017
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2016. "John Singer Sargent Letter to Henry Mills Alden." In Pen to Paper: Artists’ Handwritten Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. Savig, Mary, editor. 129. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. 2016
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2014. "Portaiture, Community, Museums." In Facet to Face, Wall to Wall. Yellowstone Art Museum. 2014
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2013. "About the Artists." In The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2013. Reaves, Wendy Wick, Sheriff, Mary D., and Moss, Dorothy, editors. Washington, DC: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. 2013
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2013. "Harriet Beecher Stowe." In Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection. Kagan, Neil and Hyslop, Stephen G., editors. 50–51. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books. 2013


  • Exhibit

  • Presentation

    • Moss, Dorothy. 2022. Curator-led Tour of Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands [presentation]. March 10, 2022. ArtTable Events. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian: ArtTable.
    • Moss, Dorothy and Caragol, Taina. 2022. Curatorial Conversation: The Obama Portraits with Taina Caragol, Dorothy Moss, and Michael Rooks [presentation]. February 10, 2022. Virtual: The High Museum.
    • Moss, Dorothy, Ostalaza, Yvette, and Schnitzer, Jordan. 2021. Face to Face: Collectors evening with Bernard Lumpkin [presentation]. February 24, 2021.
    • Moss, Dorothy and Caragol, Taína. 2021. Face to Face: Pursuing Pop with Rupert Garcia and Jane Dickson [presentation]. March 24, 2021.
    • Caragol, Taína, Moss, Dorothy, García, Rupert, and Dickson, Jane. 2021. Face to Face: Pursuing Pop with Rupert García and Jane Dickson, moderated by Taína Caragol and Dorothy Moss [presentation]. March 24, 2021.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2016. Handling Controversy: Challenges of Difficult Subject Matter and the Use of Social Media in Relation to these Challenges, seminar for curators [presentation]. Conference Organized by the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), March 7, 2016. New York, New York.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2021. Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands (Arts of Asia Lecture series) [presentation]. October 22, 2022. Virtual: Society for Asian Art.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2016. Identify: Performance Art as Portraiture in National Portrait Gallery [presentation]. Lunch bag lecture series Smithsonian American Art Museum, Archives of American Art, and National Portrait Gallery, January 1, 2016. Washington, DC.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2021. Interface: Hung Liu's Family Photographs [presentation]. September 16, 2021. Lunchbag Seminar. Virtual: Smithsonian American Art Museum.
    • Moss, Dorothy, Gibson, Jeffrey, and Campos-Pons, María Magdalena. 2020. Jeffrey Gibson and María Magdalena Campos-Pons in Conversation with Dorothy Moss [presentation]. The Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture Conversation Series, July 7, 2020.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2019. Making Absence Visible [presentation]. SXSW, March 8, 2019. Austin, Texas.
    • Moss, Dorothy and Smith, Jamie L. 2016. Performance Art as Portraiture [presentation]. College Art Association Annual Conference, February 3, 2016. Washington, DC.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2015. Portraying and Performing the Copy, c. 1900 [presentation]. Nineteenth-Century Replication and Its Digital Legacy symposium, April 10, 2015. Fort Worth.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2020. Reception for The Outwin: American Portraiture Today at the Springfield Museums [presentation]. November 9, 2020.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2016. The Act of Copying in the Museum as a Conceptual Gesture [presentation]. Museum as Muse in American Art: a symposium, December 2, 2016. Salem, MA.
    • Moss, Dorothy, Caragol-Barreto, Taína Beatriz, Powell, Richard J., Shaw, Gwendolyn DuBois, and Sherald, Amy. 2020. The Making of the Obama Portraits [presentation]. February 13, 2020. Chicago, Illinois.
    • Moss, Dorothy, Sajet, Kim, Caragol-Barreto, Taína Beatriz, and Powell, Richard. 2020. The Making of the Obama Portraits [presentation]. February 23, 2020. Washingon, DC.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2020. The Obama Portraits in the Context of Contemporary Art Initiatives at the National Portrait Gallery [presentation]. George Mason University; Visual Voices Lecture Series, February 6, 2020.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2019. The Obama Portraits in the Context of Contemporary Portraiture [presentation]. Florence Griswold Museum, March 30, 2019. Old Lyme, Connecticut.
    • Moss, Dorothy and Finley, Cheryl. 2019. The Object of Performance-A Conversation among Artists, Curators, and Critics [presentation]. November 22, 2019. Williamstown, Massachusetts.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2019. The Radical Empathy of Amy Sherald’s Portrait of Michelle Obama [presentation]. CAA Annual Conference 2019, February 13, 2019. New York City.
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2020. The Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative: An Inside View [presentation]. College Art Association Annual Meeting, February 14, 2020. Chicago, Illinois.
    • Moss, Dorothy, Crosthwaite, Hugo, and Clark, Natalia Garcia. 2021. Understanding Not Understanding: An Artist Conversation on Process with Natalia Garcia Clark and Hugo Crosthwaite moderated by Dorothy Moss [presentation]. February 11, 2021. Springfield Museums (host institution).
    • Moss, Dorothy. 2019. ’Active Absence’: The Obama Portraits and the National Portrait Gallery [presentation]. University of Delaware, April 24, 2019. Newark, DE.